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tavis: good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. with midterm elections now just two months away polls show democrats on the verge of losing control of the house with the potential for significant losses in the senate as well. so first up tonight a look at what a divided government might mean for the country and its impact on president obama's bid for a second term with susan page. also tonight, oscar-winning actor martin landau stops by. he stars in the movie "lovely still," a film he also produces. we're glad you could join us. >> all i know is his name is james. he needs extra help with his reading. >> i'm james. >> yes.
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>> to everyone making a difference. >> thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley with every question and answer. nationwide is proud to join tavis in working with literacy. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: eight weeks from tomorrow, americans are l head to the polls in all 50 states in an election that could alter the balance of power in the house and senate and have an impact on
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the presidential campaign come 2012. i'm joined now by susan page, washington bureau chief of "u.s.a. today". she joins us tonight where where else, d.c. good to have you on this program. >> good to be here. tavis: fair or not fair to suggest this is one of the most closely watched midterms in a long time. >> it reminds me of 1994, clinton's midterm. there are some parallels which i know is a concern with the democrats now. tavis: parallels like? >> parallels of people that are unhappy with the country. in our poll, 3/4 of americans say they don't like the direction where the country is headed. that's what we saw in 1994. the president's approval rating
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has really sunk. it is now at 43%. that is a little bit higher than president clinton in 1994. he had just had that health care disaster, that disaster over trying to pass health care legislation but you see a similar kind of landscape where people are unhappy with the party that is in power. tavis: to your points, as i recall, very well, clinton did in fact get his clock cleaned during those midterms and then yet, as you recall, after 1994 he didn't move to the center. he made that thing work for him. in the end, he came out on top and newt gingrich got kicked to curb. >> remember, he also got re-elected in 1996 by a big margin. you know, if the democrats do lose control of congress or the house in november, that is bad news in some ways for the obama white house but in some ways it may not be such bad news. president clinton's experience goes to both points.
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when you lose the other side investigates you a lot more. they have the power to hold hearings. it is unlikely that president clinton would have been imif the democrat -- impeached if the democrats still had control. we saw in 1996 president clinton's welfare reform package passed, the big budget bill that balanced the budget. there are some ways in which it may be helpful. tavis: i've been reading, you know, all of this stuff, covering this every day with a grain of salt. i've been reading this and people like dick morris come to mind and others. they are not the only ones but they are making these wild predictions about sweeping numbers for republicans that is picking up seats. my sense is and again, i'm not an expert. if either of these houses
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switch, my sense is it is going to be closer than we think which raises this question for me, if i'm right about this that it is going to be close whether the democrats retain power or give it up. if it is close that is a very different story than having 60 votes to get stuff through. stpwhaps the numbers are really, really close and you really do have as decided a governmented a you could have? >> you know tavis, i think you make great point. whoever is in control, they are not going to have the big numbers the democrats have in the house and senate and we know already in the senate it is so difficult to get things done because you need 60 votes to get past the filibuster. that is in some ways a recipe for stalemate. we had a tied senate remember after the 2006 election for a while. it makes it very hard to get things done done and you have to depend on the spirit of compromise. that is one thing we have not
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seen in washington. tavis: who moves? we have not seen as great a compromise, when the president has control of the house and senate. if you buy the line that the republicans have been obstructionists and they are the party of no, what is the reason to believe they are going to change, if we're not getting a whole lot of stuff done now, what happens if these numbers turn out the way we're talking about now? >> let's go back to the experience we were talking about before the 1994 example. after the republicans took control in 1994, they tried to pass their agenda and they failed because democrats didn't let it happen. and then you had a period of time where newt gingrich and bill clinton had some things they wanted to make progress on like welfare and so they worked together but it took some time to get there . if after this election the republicans gain control of the house and senate, i think we'll have a rocky period for a while
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and then the question will be do the republicans move ahead with trying repeal the health care bill which democrats have blocked? everybody agrees we need to do something about immigration although people have different prescriptions. everybody agrees we need to do something about entitlement and the cost of entitlement. will there be some attitude that we have to deal with those? tavis: everybody has his or her opinion about this. i'm curious to hear yours. why the president's numbers are as low as they are when you take into consideration that he has accomplished more in this you know, first year and a half than most first term presidents, whether one agrees or disagrees, that may be your answer, but he did get health care through and financial reform through. we could run the list of things that he has accomplished. how is it then, that a guy who
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has been this busy and successful on some big stuff, on some historic stuff could be looking at numbers like 43%? >> i think there are two reasons. one is the economy is still so bad so people -- unemployment is still high. we still see a lot of home foreclosures. the president is held responsible for the economy even when he doesn't have the power to change it with a snap of his fingers. the other thing, you mentioned the big legislation that congress has passed. that is certainly true. he has the biggest set of legislative accomplishments of any president in his first two years since l.b.j. we had a poll come out on friday just before labor day that showed five big legislative achievements by congress in the last five years. a majority of americans were opposed to four of them. that means it is hard for republicans to go back to voters and brag that they have done all
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of these big things when voters have a negative view of a things they have done. when the health care bill is put into place more completely, voters attitudes will turn around but that hasn't happened yet. tavis: how do you think it will to your point be ready eventually, that is to say what president obama has been able to do so far be lookinged upon as courageous, to take these measures on even though most americans to disagree with them or is it going to turn out down the road that he really was tone deaf? >> you know, one thing about history is you don't know how it is going to be judged until some time is passed. i'll tell you what the white house hopes happens. they hope we have an experience like that with ronald reagan. he took office in 1980. big problems in the economic recession. he took a shell acking in his midterm elections.
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lost 26 seats in the house and yet, he won re-election in 1994. the thing -- many people look at this a positive light, the president with big achievements. the obama folks hope that is what happens here. when the economy gets better, when people are back at work, still secure in their homes that obama is going to improve considerably and that may happen. it is hard to read history while you're in the middle of it. tavis: if it all hinges on the economy, i think you're right about this. if the economy turns significantly, in an uptick, then i think you're right. this conversation would change dramatically but that is a big win, that is a big if because the indicators now don't seem to underscore that. >> and it is unlikely that we're going to see a big economic upsurge in the next two months before election day. you really -- if you're a
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democrat or if you're in the white house, you have to take a longer view and say a year from now. let's hope the economy is perking along and that will set the stage for an election campaign that obama would like to face. but for the congressional candidates that are on the ballot this year, it looks like a very tough terrain. tavis: speaking of uptick, you guys do the polling, any sense that you guys have that the president has already received or is going to get an uptick as a result of keeping the campaign promise to draw down the troops in iraq? >> you know, his approval on the issue of handling iraq is the highest of any issue of his presidency. higher than handling the economy or health care or anything else. the problem for obama now is that is not really the issue driving the electorate. we saw at the top of voters concerns, because the war was
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going o so badly and the course ahead was -- now that that issue has been resolved because we ended combat operations and had the ability to pull all of our troops out, that's an issue people are grad about how he handled it but so concerned about the economy that it washes away a loft bounce that you might expect him to get there. tavis: i'm putting you on the spot here because i want to get it on tape so i can play it back for you when you are next on this program, post midterm election day. assuming that republicans by whatever margin take back the house and senate, the president is going to speak to the nation next day in some sort of press conference. what is the narrative going to be? what is the white house going to say on that dreaded day? >> the white house will say we're going to work with republicans. we invite them to work with us because neither side will be in a position to get things done unless the other side goes along. tavis: i think you're right about that, susan. i'm going to hold the tape and
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play that for you. susan page of "u.s.a. today." nice to have you on. thank you for talking us to. >> nice to be here, tavis. tavis: up next, oscar-winning actor martin landau. stay with us. pleased to have martin landau back on this program. the oscar-winning actor serves as star and producer opposite ellen bursten. here now a scene from "lovely still." >> there is this woman. she likes me. sure she likes me but i -- anyway, she wants to go on a date. >> oh, i can help you. >> you can? >> yes, i can. >> good. good. what do i do? >> well, you want to impress her, right? >> yes. >> make her happy? >> yes. >> show her a good time?
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>> yes. >> when is this date? >> tonight. >> that's pretty short notice. >> i'm sorry. >> don't be sorry. tds just with such short notice it is hard to plan out a whole stratego. never mind. look. tavis: great to see you again. >> great to see you, tavis. tavis: it has been four years since i last saw you. where have you been? >> you look wonderful and i have gotten older 3. tavis: you aren't bad yourself. speaking of getting older. you are starring in this and producing this. what is wrong with you? >> well, i also helped with some of the writing too. the interesting thing about this movie is it was directed by a 22-year-old kid who wrote it for me and my agent sent ept it to me and i like it a lot. it has a surprise ending which i don't want to talk about it.
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in fact if you see it again you see a different film interestingly. i liked it but i want to get together with the writer/director. figuring who is going to write an older couple love story? someone 50-60 years old. he is 22. half an hour later my eyes uncrossed. i said i want to get together with him. well, he lives in omaha. i said that's fine for him. anyway, he flew in and we had a five-hour lunch and we talked about how to refine script because it had bumps in it. the first aked act needed the second act. i worked with him two months on the telephone. five and six pages at a clip. when it was about 90% there, i said send it to ellen bursten who is perfect for this other role. several days later she called me and she said marty? i said yeah, ellen.
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what are we going to do in omaha, nebraska for seven weeks? tavis: you're starring in this, helping to write the thing and producing the thing and most interesting to me, to your point now, written by a 22-year-old. i read somewhere that you said if you put a younger couple in this leads here, opposed to an older couple, the day log would still work. >> well, if you put 16-year-olds into these two roles, you wouldn't have to change a whole lot for most of the movie. tavis: wow. >> i mean literally. the day log. -- the day log, it is a funny movie. it is a tragic movie and a sweet movie, like an old-fashioned old movie. i love it. which is why i don't go around drumbeating a lot of films most of the time but this is one i really think is important for a lot of people to see because it
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has a bunch of interesting messages and yet it is very enjoyable to watch. tavis: without giving away that surprise ending. i saw this. i know the surprise ending. let me just say this without giving it away. it is an emotional surprise ending. like -- like tears maybe even. >> emotional. tavis: i'll never give that way. >> tell the audience what you can tell them about the storyline? it is a love story. >> it is an older guy who has had very little experience and he finds this woman and falls in love with her and he is like a child. and their date is -- which kicks off their relationship is one that he is totally ill-equipped to deal with whichation 16-year-old might have the same problem, which -- i really mean
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it. if you see it a second time you see a completely different film. ellen and i are basically working on two levels without giving away something. you'll see clues and things that you did not see the first time. literally, it is a whole other movie and that's what is interesting and sophisticated about it. so i -- i don't want to tell people too much about it. i really want them to see it. some people are saying it is the best thing i've ever done. i don't know about that but it is nice to hear that. tavis: it is getting some good buzz, which is why we wanted to have you on the program that talk about it. i think the buzz is going to pick up after people get a chance to see it. it is interesting, sophisticated, fascinating and in the end it is very surprising. having said all of that, you're a bold man. you're a bold man to take on a project that is unapologetically an older love story in a
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business that seems to be driven by youth. >> oh, absolutely. i mean, it took us a little while to get a distributor who understood the movie and was behind the movie. yes. if we were 15 and 16 and 20-year-olds, we would have had an easier time getting this picture distributed. we went to the toronto film festival. went to the milan film festival where it was received wonderfully. the chicago film festival. the milwaukee film festival. standing ovations and yet no one understood the movie and this distribution company we have now loves the movie. tavis: let me probe for just a second. the audience may be confused because i am. when you say it is a love story, we established that. when you say that the story -- the love story is so universal
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that 16-year-olds can understand it. 80-year-olds can understand it. >> 16-year-olds -- tavis: help me understand how it can be that understandable. that relatable and you can't get a distributor, to use your phrase, to understand the movie? >> because they are more interested in fireballs and car chases and characters climbing up and down the sides of buildings. tavis: kind overp -- of "mission impossible" stuff. >> not even "mission impossible." action-adventure stuff that opens to $150 million grosses at the box office. this kind of a picture doesn't do that. you know? and again, let's say a picture that costs $5 million or $6 million, they still have to put in $10 million to $15 million into prints and advertising so it winds up costing $20 million.
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they have to work hard on that film as they would any film and even if it made $30 million or $40 million on its opening weekend, that would not impress the stockholders so it is harder and harder to get a character-driven film of any kind made by the major studio. rmp what is the justification for you at this age working this hard to get a passion project produced? >> i still care about human behavior and the art that it takes to write a good piece and to get a cast together who cares enough to put 150% of their talent into a project. you know? with "avatar" you're beginning to see the need for less and less actors and less of an appreciation for -- we are getting to a point where
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animated films of various kinds are satisfying people but what you're miss arrange the little nuances and colors that come with a well-written script and a talented cast. so the audience is being dumbed down by seeing stuff that doesn't move them in the same way that i was moved when i started to work in the theater in new york as a young actor, which is what i wanted to do. the fact that i wound up doing television and film was you know, just a thing that happened. but i was trained for the theater and what goes on in the theater has nothing to do with special effects. and the 30's still survives on the basis that -- and the theater still survives on the basis that it makes people laugh and cry in some way tass these pictures don't do. tavis: did you ever think when you started in that first film
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with hitchcock, did you ever think it would come to this some 50 years later? >> well, no one can anticipate, you know, but the electronic world has grown around us has, you know, i was there at the beginningings of television when we didn't even have tape. we had telescopes that were distorted. i grew up with radio which was a miracle when i was a kid. the leaps and bounds that we have made over the years are enormous. buck rodgers was some kind of fantasy. buck rogers is no long aerofantasy. we're practically ahead of him or flash gordon. those serials on saturdays that i saw as a kid have been surpassed in terms of our actual lives. we can go to moon. rockets can do all kinds of
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things. they can blow cities up. mankind, his brain has embraced so many amazing things and yet we're still beating each other over the heads with clubs. accept the bullets now, one bullet with wipe out an entire city. tavis: despite all of that, you are still in love with this business called show business? >> well, it is also a way of communicating. feelings and stuff that is -- that makes the human being an original creature. and i think -- i still care about people. and the best, you know, you go to church to hear a sermon. you go to a theater or a cinema to be -- to laugh and to try and top think hopefully, walk out with a little idea that you
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might not have had when you entered. tavis: and there in lies the best reason to go see "lovely still" starring one martin landau. good have you. thank you for your time. >> my pleasure. tavis: pleasure is all mine. trust me. that's our show for tonight. until tomorrow night, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with oscar-winning actor tim robbins and a new play at jamestown. that's next time. we'll see you then. >> all i know is his name is jamentse james and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i'm james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference. >> thank you. >> you help us all live better.
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>> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley with every question and answer, nationwide insurance is proud in working with tavis to improve financial literacy. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. pbs.
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Tavis Smiley
PBS September 7, 2010 12:00pm-12:30pm EDT

Series/Special. Martin Landau. (2010) Susan Page, USA Today; actor Martin Landau. New. (CC) (Stereo)

TOPIC FREQUENCY Clinton 6, Tavis Smiley 4, Martin Landau 4, Obama 3, Tavis 3, Us 3, Washington 2, Omaha 2, Newt Gingrich 2, Ellen Bursten 2, Ellen 2, Toronto 1, Milan 1, Los Angeles 1, Chicago 1, Nebraska 1, Shell Acking 1, Obama White 1, Smiley 1, Understandable 1
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